Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Cowboy Song - The Authorized Biography of Phil Lynott by Graeme Thomson

 As with most teens in the 70's, I discovered Thin Lizzy through their terrific breakthrough album, Jailbreak, with their hits "The Boys Are Back in Town" and "Jailbreak". Hard-edged rock'n'roll with great songwriting and amazing dual lead guitars hooked damn near every kid who played rock'n'roll at the time. I have yet to truly explore their entire catalog (they have far more releases than I ever realized), but Jailbreak and Fighting have never left my playlist since they first appeared. As frontman, singer and songwriter, Phil has always been a stylish'n'hip rock'n'roll character who was cool enough and adaptable enough to play with Johnny Thunders and members of the Sex Pistols, among others, and is still revered to this days, decades after his untimely, all-too-early death. 

I never knew much about his story and right from the beginning this book tells the tale of a true individual, a young black kid in Ireland born out of wedlock to a white woman who went on to have two more children by other men who she gave up for adoption. His mother had numerous issues and Phil was sent to live with his grandparents where he stood out among his white peers, but it seems that he was given more positive attention, as opposed to the racial distancing one would expect, at least for the most part.

He grew into a stylish teen and, as much for his unique looks as anything else, became the lead singer for the Black Eagles, a local beat band who lasted a surprisingly long four years or so before fizzling out. From there he was asked to join Skid Row, again, more for his style than his singing, and he helped them to gain true notoriety with his looks and theatrics as well as the friends he brought along to create light shows and help roadie. He then started Thin Lizzy with Brian Downey (drums) and Eric Bell (guitar), got signed to Decca Records, moved to London and released two albums in short succession to little acclaim. Slogging through tours that barely paid the bills, they then stumbled upon a more winning formula with a revision of the traditional Irish number, "Whiskey in the Jar".

Funnily, despite previous theatrics in other bands, with Thin Lizzy Phil had to learn how to reach the audience while playing bass (his first band doing this) and singing. But, he studied hard at his presentation as well as his songwriting and everything did progress. By their third album, they started making headway in the charts and reached the attention of Ritchie Blackmore, who floated the idea of a supergroup with himself and Ian Paice, Paul Rodgers and Phil! This got as far as a recorded demo and fizzled when Ritchie and Ian returned to Purple, which may have been for the best all around! Thankfully, this was a time when a record company let a group grow (within reason, of course) and after a couple of dud albums, Thin Lizzy and company did begin to see some reward all around.

As everyone knows, the Jailbreak album was their smash hit breakthrough with "The Boys Are Back in Town" becoming a worldwide hit single and starting them on a trajectory for super stardom. Unfortunately, this is when Phil contracted hepatitis and derailed their entire momentum, which, while they remained reasonably successful, they - and he - never truly recovered from. The fact that two further American tours were derailed for other health and personnel issues (guitarists were the bane of Lynott's career, despite giving the band its melodic sound) also kept them from the ultra-stardom that they might have reached otherwise.

I always find it exciting to read about musicians' ride to fame'n'fortune, especially during the thrilling 60's and 70's, but so many, including Phil, threw everything away with extreme excesses of drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, no one, not even the record companies or producers would make them terminate their excesses since most of them were dealing with the same devils. This is where Phil's story becomes painfully pitiful, sad, and sometimes sickening, 

Graeme managed to interview nearly every important character in this fascinating story and found more information through the usual channels of magazines, TV shows and documentaries, and fuses it all together into a captivating and informative tale. I have to say that this is one of my favorite r'n'r biographies of recent times. Dig it!

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Misfits - Static Age


This record has a truly convoluted legacy, which is explained fully on Wikipedia, with the album not released in its entirety until 1996 despite being recorded in 1978! Many of the songs had appeared in one form or another over the years though and this sound is likely what most people think of when they think of the Misfits.

Led by Glenn Danzig, of course, here he is joined by Jerry Only (bass) with Franche Coma on guitar and drummer Mr. Jim, for a stripped down, punk rock look at pop culture, media and horror movies, done with catchy hooks and Glenn's powerful vocals. While the sound quality/mix is pretty mediocre - 17 songs were recorded in 30 hours - the songs are well written, melodic punk rockers. "Static Age", "TV Casualty", and "Some Kinda Hate" are basic sing-along punkers but then we get the sublime "One Last Caress", a minimalist masterpiece with an impossibly memorable melody driving lines like "I got something to say, I killed your baby today". Truly one of Glenn's best! "Return of the Fly" is based on the B-movie, of course, "Hybrid Moments" is highly melodic, "We Are 138" is a cryptic anthem while "Teenagers From Mars" is a true B-Movie anthem, "Come Back" is a bit more drone-y and probably the longest song here, and then there's "AngelFuck", another incredibly memorable, incredibly offensive, amazing song!  

Kinda obvious where he got the title "Hollywood Babylon" and it's another stompin' punk singalong, "Attitude" is more minimalistic punk making the Ramones sound proficient by comparison, followed by one of their most infamous, "Bullet", about the JFK assassination, which suddenly shifts lyrical gears with a chorus of "you gotta suck, suck Jackie suck" and more sexual references, which seems like a strange juxtaposition to me, but then I'm not Glenn! He adds some electric piano for a more moody/garage feel in "Theme For a Jackal" but "She" goes back to primitive punk, "Spinal Remains" is practically early thrash, and the closer, "In the Doorway" is pretty basic punk rock. There's a hidden track with another version of "Hollywood Babylon", among others, with some studio chatter and some false starts'n'stops for a behind-the-scenes "look" at the sessions.

As I say, the sound quality is pretty iffy - it wasn't until the band Danzig that Glenn finally got good studio sound courtesy of Rick Ruben - but the songs are true classics, confirming the Misfits rightful place in punk rock hierarchy. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

recommended live streams

 9-18-20 - the Delta Bombers live stream 6:30 pm Pacific time

9-19-20 - Junior Brown live stream - 7:00 pm CDT

9-23-20 - The Hypnotiques live stream 7:00 pm Pacific Time

9-26-20 - Guitar Wolf presents Shemane Jett Fest - Free Live Stream Festival with a ton of incredible bands!
9-26-20 noon through 9-27-20 noon - Life is Shit Virtual Festival from the Dive Bar

10-10-20 - the Two Tens live stream virtual release show 8:00 pm Pacific Time
10-10-20 - Franks'n'Deans live stream - 8:00 pm Pacific Time

10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Monday, September 14, 2020

Patti Smith - Early Work


I've been continuing to catch up on the written works on Patti Smith lately, since I hadn't really bought much since Babel in the 70's. Her poetry can be somewhat esoteric and ethereal with wild, disjointed, stream of consciousness, free-association imagery, but she also can turn a mean phrase when she tries. Her prose is still lyrical, but much more coherent, which means it can be a bit easier to read, but the challenge of her poetry is very worthwhile, as well.

This book of poems collects a portion of Patti's 1970's work, including some which would later become lyrics to her better known songs - an early version of "Oath" (the prelude to her version of "Gloria"), "Land" ("Horses" before it became "Horses), "Babelogue", the intro to "Rock'n'Roll Nigger", and plenty of others, as well as some that became BOC lyrics (they recorded her words long before she became a musical artist herself), along with at least one missive that appeared in Creem magazine (her ode to Jim Morrison). Also included are photos that she took, as well as some that she related to the words, either found or produced by friends such as Robert Mapplethorpe.

This is a nice selection and a good overview of Patti in the 70's - fans should certainly get this one! 

James White and the Blacks - Sax Maniac


This weekend I had a chance to peruse some of our massive vinyl collection and stumbled upon this haphazardly. Obviously, I listen to all kinds of music all the time, but I have been going through a No-Wave period off-n-on, so I wanted to revisit this one from 1982. Turns out that this is one of the best combinations of funk (excellent bass/drum rhythm section by Colin Wade and Ralph Rolle, respectively) and atonal noize/sax screeches that I am aware of. Pretty gawddamn great from start to finish!

James Brown-styled funk is infused throughout the record, starting with "Irresistible Impulse", an almost straight-forward funk piece, excepting for James' wild vocalizing and some crazed keyboard and sax noodlings towards the end. I don't have the album in front of me and I'm listening via YouTube right now, so I'm not sure if the track order is correct, but White's take on "That Old Black Magic" is damn near unrecognizable, but in a good way - he truly reinvents this in his own funked-up style filled with plenty of wild cacophony. "Disco Jaded" isn't quite as frantic, but is still a discordant ride through alt-rhythms and weird'n'wooly key'n'sax interplay backing White's tortured, wailin' vocals. The bass lines are truly frantic'n'loopy in "Money to Burn", but maintain a happenin' groove with White and the Discolitas trading vocal lines on top of it followed by some beautiful madness with insane horn duels. This leads into the title cut with James proclaiming himself a "Sax Maniac" with the Discolitas confirming this while the horns provide a soulful backing and I certainly hope that White was doing his best James Brown dance moves throughout this one! This feel continues in "Sax Machine" - he wasn't influenced by Brown at all, was he? - although the Discolitas carry the vocals more in this one while James wails away on his horn - and they finish things off with their latest dance craze, "The Twitch", which seems appropriate for the a-rhythmic funk that they blast through this number!

The anchoring groove helps to make the crazed shrieks'n'bleats a bit more palatable, in a way, but the insanity is beautiful in its own way, as well. Amazing record!

The Byrds Original Album Classics - 5 CD set


The Byrds literally rang in the folk-rock scene with Roger/Jim (for some reason he would switch his first name) McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker guitar with their classic cover of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and their own amazing put-down song, "Feel a Whole Lot Better". Merging the songs of the folk scene with the electricity and harmonies of the Beatles, they created a new, instantly recognizable sound that resonates and inspires to this day. This 5-CD set compiles their first five albums in reproductions of the original covers which, while pretty cool, makes it a bit difficult to read the text when it has been shrunk down this much. No booklet is included, but this is budget priced and you get all of the great music, so that is really just a nit-pick.

They debuted with the album Mr. Tambourine Man and the smash hit single that started a genre opens the album, starting their legacy of covering Dylan and making him even more popular than he already was! Gene Clark's "Feel a Whole Lot Better" is one of the prettiest put-down songs ever and continued the 12-string folk-rock sound, another Dylan cover already, "Spanish Harlem Incident" isn't nearly as successful, but Clark and McGuinn's "You Don't Have To Cry" is a nice pop-folk number, Clark's "Here Without You" is catchy'n'moody in a captivating minor key, Pete Seeger's "The Bells of Rhymney" is given a terrific treatment, Dylan's "All I Really Want To Do" is probably better than the original, "I Knew I'd Want You" is another excellent Clark tune, and his collaboration with McGuinn in "It's No Use" is a cool garage rocker, then there's a slightly odd Jackie DeShannon cut, "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe", that still works, for their fourth (!) Dylan number we get "Chimes of Freedom" and the album finale was a super strange take on the 1939 song "We'll Meet Again". For the bonus tracks there's another lovely Clark song, "She Has a Way", alternative takes of "Feel a Whole Lot Better", "It's No Use" and "You Won't Have to Cry", the single version of "All I Really Want To Do" and an instrumental take of "You and Me".

Turn! Turn! Turn! is the title of the group's sophomore album as well as their hit single version of Pete Seeger's adaptation of the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes, done in their signature, jangly folk-rock manner. McGuinn collaborates with Harvey Gerst for the truly lovely "It Won't Be Long" (amazing melody!), Clark's "Set You Free This Time" is a sweet, slow-tempo'd, Dylan-esque number, and they cover another Dylan tune, this time one that was unreleased, "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", McGuinn adapted the traditional "He Was a Friend of Mine" as a tribute to JFK, "The World Turns Around Her" is another terrific Clark tune, while Hillman suggested Porter Wagner's "Satisfied Mind", hearkening to their later country period, then they get a bit in a folk/psych mood for Clark's "If You're Gone", back to Dylan for a terrific take on "The Times They Are a-Changin'", McGuinn and Crosby get together for "Wait and See" and the vinyl finished with an odd adaptation of "Oh! Susannah!", of all things. There's a plethora of extras on this CD, starting with a couple more Clark songs, "The Day Walk" and "She Don't Care About Time", alt takes on "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" as well as "She Don't Care About Time", "The World Turns All Around Her" and an instrumental of Crosby's "A Stranger in a Strange Land".

Their third album, Fifth Dimension, saw the departure of guitarist/songwriter Gene Clark and therefore the prominence of McGuinn and David Crosby as songwriters, along with a great deal of experimentation. The opening "5D (Fifth Dimension)" is a Dylan-esque folk number, sounding like it could easily fit in either of their previous albums, as does the traditional "Wild Mountain Thyme" but these are followed by the fun, country-styled, pop excursion into the existence of extra terrestrials, "Mr. Spaceman", then the McGuinn/Crosby harmony-drenched collaboration "I See You" which brings in some neat, psychedelic 12 string noodling reminiscent of "Eight Miles High", which had already been recorded by this time. Crosby's first recorded original "What's Happening?!?!" brings in more psych 12 string to his existential questioning, then a cover of Nazim Hikmet's "I Come and Stand at Every Door" is a melancholy ballad, and the terrific "Eight Miles High", an incredibly catchy and wonderful mix of Coltrane, Ravi Shankar, psychedelia and folk-pop - truly original, creative and it still causes goosebumps every time I hear it! Not as inspiring is their Leaves-like take on "Hey Joe" or the instrumental band composition, "Captain Soul" (essentially, simply a jam), the traditional "John Riley" fares a bit better and "2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)" is simply a novelty. The bonus tracks on this record include the fabulously lovely "Why", the flip to the single of "Eight Miles High" and a similarly incredible raga-rock number, along with a beautiful folk-pop arrangement of another traditional, "I Know My Rider", Crosby's freak-out "Psychodrama City", the original versions of "Eight Miles High" and "Why" (I prefer the "official versions", but that could just be due to familiarity), an instrumental of "John Riley" and a radio interview. Nice extras!

For their fourth excursion, Younger Than Yesterday, the band, with the help of producer Gary Usher, further expanded their sounds with more psych and jazz influences, as well as the addition of extra instruments. Bassist Chris Hillman emerged as a vocalist and songwriter here, as well, including co-writing, with McGuinn, their hit from this album, the opening classic, "So You Wanna Be a Rock'n'Roll Star", which included a brass section, adding a different texture to the proceedings. Hillman's "Have You Seen Her Face" is a super-strong, somewhat Beatles-esuqe folk-pop tune, "C.T.A. - 102" is nice, but not overly strong, "Renaissance Fair" is a gorgeous Crosby/McGuinn number with an impossibly great melody line in "I think that maybe I'm dreaming", Hillman returns for "Time Between", a sweet country-pop number hearkening to the band's future country stylings, Crosby's "Everybody's Been Burned" has a captivating melody and could easily fit in on the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. Another strong Hillman composition, "Thoughts and Words", opened side two of the vinyl, with Crosby's Jefferson Airplane-like (he even sounds a bit like Grace in a couple of places!), highly (hah!) psychedelic "Mind Gardens" coming next, they return to their roots for their cover of Dylan's "My Back Pages" and another Hillman tune, "The Girl With No Name" fits in well with that and the vinyl ended with "Why", from the "Eight Miles High" single. There's a bunch of bonus tracks here: Crosby's "It Happens Every Day", the upbeat "Don't Make Waves" (wonder why this didn't make the album? It's a goodie!), an alt version of "My Back Pages" with keyboards and a weirdly (but not badly) effected lead guitar, an alt of "Mind Gardens", another Crosby tune, "Lady Friend" and the single version of "Old John Robertson" that segues into an uncredited instro of "Mind Gardens".

More experimentation took place for The Notorious Byrd Brothers, with even more different instruments - including pedal steel and one of the first uses of a Moog on record - while the band went through much upheaval - Crosby left, Michael Clarke left, returned, and left again, and Gene Clark returned for a few weeks before quitting again! Horns open "Artificial Energy", giving a slightly soulful pop sound - already pretty different for this group! Carole King/Gerry Goffin's  "Goin' Back" is given a nice Byrds-y treatment, "Natural Harmony" is slightly jazzy, "Draft Morning" starts as a wistful ballad that evolves into a war-themed theater piece, their pedal-steel/psych take on the King/Goffin "Wasn't Born to Follow" was a highlight of the Easy Rider soundtrack, while "Get to You" is a light-weight, string-filled ballad. "Change is Now" kinda throws the kitchen sink into the production, turning a ballad into a psychedelic backwards-lead guitar jam and then a country number and still somehow working, more byrdsian countryisms in "Old John Robertson", which breaks briefly for a strange string section, Crosby/Hillman's "Tribal Gathering" again sounds a bit like later CSN with a cool guitar lead, "Dolphin's Smile" is somewhat experimental, but still Byrdsian, while "Space Odyssey" is definitely spacey! Another big batch of extras here  including the wacky instrumental "Moog Raga", which lives up to its title, a more down-to-earth instro of "Bound to Fall", one of my fave Crosby songs, the ever "controversial" "Triad", alternative takes of "Goin' Back" and "Draft Morning" and the instrumental "Universal Mind Decoder" which segues into an uncredited radio ad and in-studio argument!

These bonus priced collections are well worth it in my eyes, especially with all of the extras included. A fantastic collection of some of the best folk rock ever done!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

RIP Diana Riggs

Dame Diana Rigg: Avengers, Bond and Game of Thrones actress dies at 82 

Out of Africa - Isak Dinesen


Once again, I'm not sure what brought me to this particular book - I assume that there was a recommendation in something else that I was reading, somewhere. But this particular tome is well known enough that a movie was made from it in the mid-80's, although I was not aware of it until now.

Set in the 1920's, Karen Blixen, the author's true name, owned a coffee plantation in Kenya, Africa after divorcing from her husband. As can be imagined, a woman running a large plantation - thousands of acres - was a rarity and I can only assume that in Africa it was even more scarce, although she does mention another female friend who ran another farm while her husband was in the service.

Often a bit politically incorrect, Blixen's reminiscences are not laid out in the form of a novel, rather they are simply somewhat random vignettes giving the reader bits'n'pieces of life with the natives. I think I would have been drawn into the story a bit more if there had been some sort of linear plot, but Blixen tells the tale with fine lyrical imagery. There are innumerable characters involved - a large number of "squatters" who lived and worked on the farm as well as quite a few friends and acquaintances who come'n'go and often stay in the large house that is the center of the plantation. Many adventures of all sorts ensue and it is a quite fascinating view of life in the wild at the beginning of the century, very different than it would be now, for certain.

The descriptions of the natives are generally very positive and those that worked for her were very respectful of her and continued to keep in touch for decades after she was forced to sell the farm and leave the country. In the epilogue she recounts other friends of hers visiting her old servants and writing their own tales of the countrymen and being impressed by the continued loyalty.

Although intriguing, I'm afraid that the book did not really captivate me. Still, it does capture a time and a place that few white people truly experienced.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

RIP Simeon Coxe of Silver Apples

Simeon Coxe III 1938 - 2020

Thursday, September 03, 2020

recommended gigs and live streams

 9-4-20 - The Zombies live stream - 9:00 pm

9-15-20 - the Reeves Brothers live stream 7:45 EDT

9-18-20 - the Delta Bombers live stream 6:30 pm Pacific time

9-19-20 - Junior Brown live stream - 7:00 pm CDT

9-26-20 - Guitar Wolf presents Shemane Jett Fest - Free Live Stream Festival with a ton of incredible bands!
9-26-20 noon through 9-27-20 noon - Life is Shit Virtual Festival from the Dive Bar

10-10-20 - the Two Tens live stream virtual release show 8:00 pm Pacific Time

10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Saturday, August 29, 2020

West Side Story

This tale, and updated version of Romeo and Juliet, of course, displays the unnecessary bigotry and hated of the "other" in NYC in the early 60's. The stupidity of fighting for "turf" is highlighted as a Latina (played  in a very un-politically correct manner by the very white Natalie Wood) falls in love with a "pollack" as their different factions fight for the streets of NYC.

Again, the cinematography and sets (obviously on a sound stage, but very effective none-the-less) is superb, with special kudos to the lighting and set dressers. As I said, I have always loved the choreography of these types of films and this is especially well done - Jerome Robbins did an incredible, unforgettable job here - and Leonard Bernstein shines with his music for Stephen Sondhelm's lyrics, creating fantastic songs that stand the test of time and have been covered by musicians as varied as Tom Waits and Alice Cooper (which may be a reason why this resonates so strongly with me).

Of course, the story of two outcasts falling in love heartened my heart, as well, as I have always been an outcast in the crazy world we live in - although, of course, I didn't want to end up as these characters did! Naturally, in today's world of ultra-violence, this story of rival gangs is pretty quaint, but it's a good story, told well, with style (man, the PR's all dress like MInk DeVille!) and flash.

I'd be surprised if anyone has not seen this in this day'n'age, but if not, make the time while it's available on Netflix!

Fiddler on the Roof

I have always been a sucker for 60's musicals, having grown up in that time, living with the soundtracks and often singing the songs in one fashion or another - home, school, in the playgrounds. I always loved the choreography that was displayed in these movies (as well as in the various variety shows of the time) and appreciated the way the films would combine the music and visuals.

Fiddler is set in the early 1900's Russia and focuses on the changes that a family goes through as the daughters grow up and become independent while the Tsar eventually evicts the Jews from their village.

I am sure that I was entranced by the fact that the main characters were rebelling against the "tradition" that the older generation was extolling, as was happening everywhere in the 60's - the movie is obviously a simile for the then-modern times. The father eventually comes around and understands that things like love matter more than tradition and that tradition does not supercede the ultimate political authority, which is what squashed the rebellion of the 60's.

The cinematography is especially nice, with effective bits such as the father, who has regular conversations with God, suddenly finding himself far away from the people whose situation he is discussing with God. But, the sights in general are effective and rich in colors and show fine direction with lots of fantastic shots'n'angles (a wow shot - stark white geese against a grey graveyard scene).

It is a sad story, but also filled with hope and love that they pray will overcome the situations that they find themselves in - as many can relate to in this modern day'n'age, as they could in the 60's.

A timeless tale, as people try to find themselves and try to find love in a world that cares nothing for them, for what else can we all do?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

recommended gigs and live streams

8-27-20 - Atomic Video Jukebox Live Stream

8-29-20 - the B-52's free live stream at 8:00 pm
8-29-20 - The Tell Tale Hearts video viewing party at 1:00 pm Pacific Time at the TTH's FB page

9-2-20 - Monk and the Po Boys LIVE at the Sand Dollar

9-4-20 - The Zombies live stream - 9:00 pm

9-18-20 - the Delta Bombers live stream 6:30 pm Pacific time

9-26-20 noon through 9-27-20 noon - Life is Shit Virtual Festival from the Dive Bar

10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Monday, August 24, 2020

Echo in the Canyon (movie)

Laurel Canyon was, of course, LA's center for its folk rock scene, with the likes of the Buffalo Springfield, Mamas and Papas, Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, and many, many more living in the somewhat secluded neighborhood, which was still just over the hill from Hollywood. This documentary concentrates on this folk-rock scene with some fantastic period footage, interviews with some of the survivors and a concert and recordings done by more modern artists such of Jacob Dylan, Beck and Fiona Apple. For me, the concentration on the newer artists is a bit overdone, especially as they try to put the period into some sort of historical perspective, without having lived it. Their performances are quite good, but don't match the originals, which just goes to show how talented the 60's musicians and singers were/are.

But, this is well worth seeing for the original music and the fine footage that was uncovered, as well as the modern interviews with those who were there - Roger McGuin, David Crosby, Michelle Phillips, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, etc. - along with the likes of Ringo, Jackson Browne and Tom Petty, in his last film interview. Amazing music that is still highly influential and that will make you want to pull out your old albums once again!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

RIP Walter Lure

Sad to hear of Walter's demise - gawd knows what the Heartbreakers would have sounded like without him, although he emulated Johnny's style, I think he kept the group more grounded and helped to hold it all together.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

recommended live streams

8-26-20 - The Hypnotiques live stream at 8:00 pm
8-26-20 - Goldtop Bob LIVE at the Sand Dollar

8-27-20 - Atomic Video Jukebox Live Stream

8-29-20 - the B-52's free live stream at 8:00 pm

9-2-20 - Monk and the Po Boys LIVE at the Sand Dollar

9-26-20 noon through 9-27-20 noon - Life is Shit Virtual Festival from the Dive Bar

10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

RIP Ron Heathman of the Supersuckers

Former Supersuckers guitarist Ron ‘Rontrose’ Heathman has died 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Ugly Things #54

Obviously, Ugly Things was always intended to be Mike Stax's tribute to the Pretty Things and with the untimely death of Phil May a couple of months ago, of course, Mike had to dedicate this issue to the great man. With remembrances from Mike, naturally, along with friends and peers and highlighted by an interview/tribute with the PT's guitarist Dick Taylor, May receives a fine send off from many of the people that he touched and influenced.

There is a cornucopia of treats inside besides Phil, including stories on 60's bands The Paisleys, the Electras and the Search, a bit of craziness regarding Hasil Adkins, and innumerable reviews of wild releases - records, books, movies and more!

As always, this is essential reading for the discerning rock'n'roller!

The Schizophonics - live stream from the Casbah, Saturday August 15, 2020

(Photo by Becky DiGilio Photography)

On Saturday, the Casbah hosted the Schizophonics' live stream for their only show of the summer - strange times indeed that we are living in! Although there was not a live audience (other than a few friends/workers), the Schizo's still put on a full-throttle, high-energy show, with Pat leapin'n'dancin' non-stop, to the extent that he literally tore the soles off of his shoes! (No joke!) From the opening "Black to Comm" (MC5, of course) through to the last note, they blasted through songs from their various records, along with wild covers of Roxy Music and more, only taking breaths to take a few phone calls  (!) and online requests. Totally fun and this is the kind of show that makes me miss live music!

Hopefully, we can get back to normal again sooner rather than later, so we can get back to rockin'n'rollin'n'rantin'n'ravin'! Note: If this band can wear masks while performing, you can wear a mask to go to the store! 

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Energy of Slaves - Poems by Leonard Cohen

As I said, I became a fan of Cohen's via his music in the late 60's as I was learning to play folk music on the acoustic guitar. These books belonged to my wonderful sister, Sharon, who helped me discover him and who is now cleaning excess items from her house so I claimed them.

This edition was published in 1972 although, of course, the poems stem from a period of a number of years, but this still shows growth from The Spice Box of Earth in my mind, although those were already strong works. Here, his lines are shorter and to the point, but still with terrific imagery and his clever sense of humor, as he tells tales of relationships won and lost, lust, love, boredom and violence. He is self-referential at times, with snippets of songs, older poems, mentions of lovers, such as the famous Marianne, and more. There is a certain power to her form, and the words will stick with you, whether or not you can say what he meant to say.

My love of poetry is very particular, but I thoroughly enjoyed this and look forward to finding more of his books, as I have not read many. Recommended for those who dig this kind of thing.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Leonard Cohen - The Spice Box of Earth

I became a Leonard Cohen fan in the late 60's when I first started to learn to play the guitar, due to my older brother and sister's enthusiasm for his music. He began his career as a poet of some renown before deciding (correctly) that music would bring his words to a larger audience. This 1961 book was Cohen's second collection of poems (prior to his musical career), which was met with literary acclaim, but he then moved to the Greek island of Hydra for several years before releasing any further works.

While his meanings may sometimes be fairly impenetrable, Cohen always has a fine turn of phrase, and, at times, can be quite direct in his thoughts. Occasionally, his cadence reminds me a bit of Bukowski, although the subject matter is extremely different, but he can be similarly down-to-earth. Anyone who is a fan of his music is familiar with his poetic lyrics which range from sweet stories of love to almost vulgar sexuality and violence. Love'n'lust, jealousy, observations of life and more infuse his words with personal connections and intimacy.

Those who dig a post-Beat style of poetry should absolutely research his writings. A major talent, indeed.

Black Angel's Death Song - Sinning With a Policy

While post-70's popular music was pretty much universally atrocious (with certain exceptions, of course), the LA underground scene in the 80's and 90's had a hugely diverse group of fantastic musicians playing a wide variety of incredible music to a devoted crowd of followers. Punk rock ethos infused just about every style of music possible, with some amazing results. Musicians overlapped, as well - a couple of these gents also powered Trash Can School - to create a crazily terrific time.

BADS were certainly influenced by the Velvet Underground, but much more, as well, and these variables join together for their hip, unique sound. This CD, released by Hell Yeah Records, a division of Dionysus, combined two previously released vinyl EPs. While they concentrated on the more psychedelic angle - "More" sounds practically like something Spacemen 3 might do - they would also tackle Germs-like punk rock ("Brothers and Sisters"), hard-edged, twisted riff-rock ("Brown Water/Nothing Remains"), a mellow ballad ("Bernadette"), an intense - musically and lyrically - bit of mid-tempo, anti-racist politicization in "N*gger" (today's racial insensitivity in the news is nothing new), a kinda/sorta Velvet-y dynamic number in "What Will It Take?", a powerful, stompin', repetitive riffer for "In These Times" and a highly original jammy take of the Doors' "The End" that closed their Sinning With a Policy vinyl release.

The Brett Sessions EP opens with an almost country-ish "Roller Coaster" (sounding almost nothing like their other material) but "Destroy the Evidence" is more like it with convoluted licks'n'rhythms in a mix of 70's punk'n'Devo, and "Nothing Equals Nothing" is my favorite song of theirs: a high-energy guitar riff interspersed with start'n'stop dynamics and sing-along chorus - only complaint is that it is far too short! "What Do You Mean" is nice'n'droney, in a melodic, psychedelic way, "12 Stations to Go" is simply a cool, Catholic School rocker, there's a touch of Dylan in "Spanish Cobras", s sad, Nick Cave-ish (or is that more Spacemen 3?) ballad in "Fall In the Fire" and it all concludes with a slow psych/country number appropriately titled "Are You Done?".

A bit of psych, a bit of punk, some hep noize, cool drones and just plain rock'n'roll all thrown together in this cement mixer of sounds. Dig it!

recommended live streams

8-13-20 - DJ Atomic VJ's music videos starting at 8:00 pm
8-13-20 - Gold Top Bob LIVE at the Sand Dollar - wear a mask!

8-15-20 - the Schizophonics live stream from the Casbah at 8:30 pm

8-18-20 - the New Waves live stream 7:00

8-26-20 - The Hypnotiques live stream at 8:00 pm

The Chicken Hawks - Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People

Chronology has never been my strong point and as years go by, I lose track of any linear timeline, but considering that this CD was released in 2001, I assume that we met and started gigging with Sioux City Iowa's Chicken Hawks in the late 90's/early 2000's and became friends with cool cat'n'kitten leaders of the pack, Pete'n'Betsy. Pete's hip/trashy/cool guitar stylings backed up scantily clad Betsy's powerful vocals with a revolving rhythm section (even this CD has two different sets of bass'n'drums) on blues/punk /garage songs of Iowa desperation.

Starting out with "Rollin' and Tumblin'", a Link Wray-ish take on the blues classic with some added swirling keyboards and biting slide guitar which appropriately goes into "101 Blues" that highlights more of Pete's slippery slide in this ode to Hollywood and its charms, followed by the punkier "Darksider" and the frantic frenzy of "Punch Up". For "Honky Tonk Girls" they add some pertinent honky tonk piano behind this bit of r'n'r, sing-along swagger, "Lime Ricky" is more bratty punk rock with hip "oh yeahs" answering Betsy's sassy vocals, the auto-biographical "Should Have Stayed Home (And Did LSD)" is a bit more garagey with more slithering slide guitar work, while "Texas Plain" is practically Stones-y, they do a group sing-along for "Sing Sing Prison Blues". and get pretty hilarious is the fast-paced "Ain't Got a Tan" and go full-throttled punk-blues for the fiery finale "Pearl". (There's a secret bonus track reprising "Rollin' and Tumblin'" with male (Pete?) vocals for those who don't turn off their set right away!)

Pretty freakin' great set of tunes from these hip folks from the unlikely Iowan flatlands. Fun memories from a better time, thanks to RAFR Records!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Plague - Albert Camus

Since the Corona Virus hit the States, this classic tome has been on the best-sellers list and so, it has been a bit pricey. Now, a few months in, the price got to a point where I felt justified in picking it up and checking it out.

Somewhat similar in style and concept to A Year of Wonders, The Plague is set in Oran, a real-life French port city on the Algerian coast, although the story is completely fictionalized, despite Oran having been visited by various plagues over the centuries. Like AYOW, it narrates the trials of a quarantined city, separated from the rest of the world and doing what they can to live through a devastating, contagious disease. The narrator's identity is kept hidden until the end (for no real reason), but one main character is the town's doctor, whose tales give us a window into the various residents' reactions to the isolation, to their loved one's illnesses, and to their life lived in unrelenting anxiety.

Although written and set in the late 1940's, other than the mentions of inventions such as the phone and cars, the style of writing seems much more archaic to me, albeit that could be due to the translation from the original French. Considered an "existentialist classic", I actually find the writing a bit clumsy and stilted and do not see the multiple meanings that supposedly apply to some of the writings (according to Wikipedia, anyway).

The story follows numerous members of the city as they live - or die - through the plague. I find it interesting that the city secludes itself but it does not require individual isolation - in fact, it seems to encourage gatherings at bars and restaurants, until someone is diagnosed as having the plague. Of course, it spreads throughout the city and the townsfolk struggle to deal with life under these conditions. Oddly, at one point, one character goes into a monologue against the death penalty, merely as an aside, but an interesting one. This is completely out of the blue and nothing of the sort is ever repeated - apparently, just something that Camus wanted to put into print, although I suppose there could be some sort of simile to the situation that the townsfolk found themselves in.

Of course, eventually, the plague finishes its reign and the town does its best to return to normalcy, it whatever way that expresses itself to the different inhabitants. Somewhat anti-climatic in the story, as happens in real life, I suppose. There's no real heroes or villains, nothing particularly uplifting or even totally depressing - just reporting the incidents as they happen. I guess this is what leaves me feeling uninspired after reading this - I think in our real-life, current experiences, there are more ups'n'downs, more true good'n'evil - we shall see what the people who live through the days of COVID write of their experiences!

Friday, August 07, 2020

Eater - All of Eater

Eater started when a couple of 15 year old North London kids - Andy Blde (vocals) and Brian Chevette (guitar) - decided to form a band (named after an obscure Marc Bolan lyric) by simply telling people that they had a band! Eventually they decided that maybe they should actually play a show or two and enticed Ian Woodcock (bass) and Dee Generate (and later Philip Rowlans on drums) to join in. A year and a half later, it was all over in a blur, but they put out several records, caused a bit of mayhem and had a lot of fun. This is a 28 cut collection, apparently, truly, all of Eater.

Ian was the only one who knew how to play when they started and he does his best to add a bit more musicality to the mix with fast moving bass runs moving throughout the numbers. The songs are super-short, fast-paced, simple-but-catchy 70's punk - not genius but about average and better than most of the crap that's around today. They threw in some covers, too, like a high-speed take on "Sweet Jane", Alice Cooper's "Eighteen" done as "Fifteen" and stripped down beyond minimalism, but very hip, Bowie's "Queen Bitch" (relentless!), the Velvets' "Waiting For the Man", also stripped to bare bones and sped up and T.Rex's "Jeepster" as "Jeep Star", oddly with almost no guitar in the mix.

Their first single was a couple of their catchiest numbers, "Outside View" and "Thinking of the U.S.A." - both sing-along tunes that move'n'groove and have some pretty neat changes. Although these tunes appear late in the CD running order, the ones that follow sound a bit more mature (there's even basic guitar solos!) so I surmise that they are later recordings, but that's only a guess.

Fun stuff for lovers of 70's British punk rock'n'roll. Sure, they're not the best of the batch, but they're pretty darn cool, regardless!

The Who - BBC Sessions

I find it extremely hard to believe that I have not ranted'n'raved about the release before, but I'll be damned if the blogger search will show me anything. I know I bought this when I first saw it, so maybe I've had it for longer than I've had this blog, but it's still strange. In any case...

I am a huge Who fan and have been since I first heard them blasting over the AM radio in the 60's - probably "I Can See For Miles" first and then their subsequent terrific hits and FM radio cuts and amazing albums. This disc is, obviously, BBC Radio sessions, mostly from the 60's, with enough variations on the songs that you know'n'love to make you need this album!

Apparently, most artists did a take-off Radio One jingle during their sessions and the Who were no exception, with a modification on "My Generation" ("talkin' 'bout my favorite station"), before a brief interview with Pete and a tough "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" with an incredible feedback section. Being good Mod boys, they take on the Young Rascals "Good Lovin'" with fun energy, followed by James Brown's "Just You and Me, Darling" (they were a bit too white to really do an effective James Brown cover, but it's a cute try), but their version of "Leavin' Here" is right up there with the Birds for a r'n'r interpretation, "My Generation" is pretty damn close to the original take, although the noise ending is amped up a bit (in a great way!), and they pull out a couple of fine album cuts highlighting their harmonies, "The Good's Gone" and "La-La-La-Lies" then a fast'n'biting "Substitute", a pretty hip take on "Dancing in the Street" with a ferocious fuzz solo, another relatively obscure, but cool, one, "Disguises", and a bane of Roger's existence, the gender-bending hit "I'm a Boy".

More good, clean fun with "Run, Run, Run" (with an extended guitar break), Entwistle's "Boris the Spider", the whimsical "Happy Jack", Daltrey's "See My Way" (although, I know Pete said that he helped with Roger and Keith's numbers, and this has some real Townsend-isms in it), but the biggest revelation is "Pictures of Lily" with a hip organ part! The arrangement is essentially the same, but no French Horn, the guitars seems somewhat changed and the keys effect the entire feel, in a neat way! I actually covered "A Quick One" in a band due to the intensity of their appearance on the Stones' Rock'n'Roll Circus, but this earlier representation is pretty damn perfect, as well. Then we jump from '67 to 1970 for another crack at "Substitute", my fave obscurity, "The Seeker", the stunningly powerful "I'm Free", their extraordinary take on "Shakin' All Over" then another jump to 1973 for a couple of the weaker numbers on the disc - "Relay" and "Long Live Rock" - both good, but not up to their previous standards, and the whole shebang closes with another jingle, this time changing up "Boris the Spider" very briefly!

I'd say that this is a must for any fan - great cuts all the way through!

RIP Wayne Fontana

Son of a bitch, another one gone. This was a great song, although I can't say I'm overly familiar with the rest of his catalog. Still, way too young.

RIP Jan Savage of the Seeds

The Seeds were one of my favorite 60's bands and Jan's guitar playing was definitely a big influence on me on my garage days. So sorry to hear of his passing.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

recommended live streams

8-7-20 - DJ Atomic and James Q. Mayhem VJ's music videos starting at 8:00 pm

8-15-20 - the Schizophonics live stream from the Casbah at 8:30 pm

8-26-20 - The Hypnotiques live stream at 8:00 pm

Monday, August 03, 2020

Tommy Dorsey Livin' in a Great BIg Way - Peter Levinson

Not something that I would have normally picked up for myself, but my lovely wife found this at a thrift store and thought that I might enjoy it. I'm not much of a Big Band guy personally, but I dig reading about almost any musician's life (unless I actively dislike their music) and learning how they did what they did.

Coming from a rock'n'roll upbringing, it's kinda fascinating to hear how the Big Bands worked, as it's a very different fashion - members move from group to group regularly and, of course, they had charts that they had to read (instead of memorizing) and especially interesting, each band had their own arranger to work out the various parts for the group based on their line-up. Again, as a rock'n'rollers, I'm used to groups making their own arrangements individually and I would never have thought of hiring someone to do it for you, but it makes sense for these "orchestras". It is somewhat amazing that the groups were able to maintain a coherent sound when they used outside arrangers (Tommy used several different ones at a time) to put together the music (that was also written by others, of course).

Tommy and his brother Jimmy came from a musical family and, in fact, their father insisted on them becoming musicians to avoid working in the local coal mines. Their talent made them in demand early on, even at a time when there were plenty of stellar musicians on the scene, and they made a good living even during the Depression and cut hundreds of tunes with various combos before forming the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. The brothers volatile relationship meant that this orchestra did not last long, but each brother ended up fronting his own group and were each responsible for a staggering number of hit records.

Tommy's temper and perfectionism meant that members came and went - one estimate was as many as 250 in 5 years!! But he made many careers, including a skinny kid's named Frank Sinatra, who led the group on innumerable hits.

For me, the myriad musicians and characters that appear in the story are mostly unknown so listing them - the people coming and going from the band, the hangers-on, the arrangers, the friends'n'fans, etc. - continually does get to be a bit much. I'm sure this information is much more important to those in the know, but regardless, Levinson tries to keep the story moving throughout.

Tommy was able to keep his band going for longer than most, and even had a reunion with his brother Jimmy for a few years at the end of their lives, before the hard living brought both of their lives to early ends. They kept Big Band music alive for a number of years, but with the advent of rock'n'roll (ironically, Elvis Presley was a guest star on several TV specials that they hosted in the late 50's), their draw had greatly diminished by the time of their deaths.

I'm sure that fans would find this even more enjoyable, but I got a kick out of the book and appreciated looking at this musical style from a different perspective.